Officials hail state police launch of pilotless aircraft program

Published Jan 11, 2018 at 4:00pm

Add drones to the arsenal of crime-fighting equipment used by state troopers.

Four state police zones, including the one that includes Oneida County, are deploying unmanned aerial systems, commonly known as drones, to support law enforcement missions such as accident response and traffic safety. State police members who will operate the drones will be Federal Aviation Administration certified and undergo 32 hours of hands-on training with the systems, according to Wednesday’s announcement.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the airborne devices provide a significant cost savings over piloted aircraft, reduce response times and make operations more efficient and cost-effective.

Drones can be used to document and help reconstruct serious motor vehicle crashes in less time than with current methods, resulting in shorter road closures, thereby decreasing the impact on motorists. Investigators will also use the drones to document and photograph crime scenes. 

In addition, the pilotless aircraft can also be used in dangerous situations and environments, including natural disasters, keeping law enforcement personnel out of harm’s way, according to the announcement. 

Troop D, which covers Oneida, Madison and Lewis counties and four others, is one of four zones getting a drone this month. The others are Troop A, which serves eight counties in Western New York, Troop F, which comprises five southern counties west of the Hudson River, and Troop G, which covers 10 counties in the Capital Region. By April, an additional 14 aerial drones will be deployed around the state. 

“The aerial drone systems we are deploying bring substantial benefits to our troopers in the field, and are representative of our ongoing efforts to provide the tools they need to deliver outstanding service to the public,” said State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II.

The drones will be donated by the New York State Trooper Foundation, a charity that raises private funds for state police training and equipment.

The state police aviation unit uses helicopters and airplanes.